‘Art can only emerge in freedom’: Walter Boehlich – A Biography of an Intellectual

Associated PhD project

Walter Boehlich (1921–2006) was regarded by many as the ‘prototype of a critical intellectual’. His fields of activities can be roughly divided into three categories: literary critic, literature teacher, political publicist. From 1944 to 2001 he published book reviews in various periodicals. It will be explored which premises he followed here and whether they lived up to his own expectations for the genre, as formulated for example in his ‘Autodafé’, which appeared in 1968 in Kursbuch. As a reader for Suhrkamp from 1957 to 1968 and as a translator and editor, Boehlich helped to decide which texts would see the light of day. The agenda he followed here will be illustrated from the perspective of the history of publishing and of literature.
The objective of this PhD thesis is furthermore to depict Boehlich’s impact as a political publicist from the perspective of contemporary history and to explain how and why a liberal observer of political events became a committed, left-wing intellectual. Particular focus will be placed on the lack of attention paid to National Socialism in West Germany. The biography of an intellectual is not only about the figure of Walter Boehlich but also the description of an intellectual network that contributed significantly to the liberalisation of public opinion in West Germany. The study is thus also a contribution to the history of publishing and of political culture in West Germany.

Christoph Kapp

Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History
Am Neuen Markt 1
14467 Potsdam

Email: kapp [at] zzf-potsdam.de

Forschung

‘Art can only emerge in freedom’: Walter Boehlich – A Biography of an Intellectual

Associated PhD project

Walter Boehlich (1921–2006) was regarded by many as the ‘prototype of a critical intellectual’. His fields of activities can be roughly divided into three categories: literary critic, literature teacher, political publicist. From 1944 to 2001 he published book reviews in various periodicals. It will be explored which premises he followed here and whether they lived up to his own expectations for the genre, as formulated for example in his ‘Autodafé’, which appeared in 1968 in Kursbuch. As a reader for Suhrkamp from 1957 to 1968 and as a translator and editor, Boehlich helped to decide which texts would see the light of day. The agenda he followed here will be illustrated from the perspective of the history of publishing and of literature.
The objective of this PhD thesis is furthermore to depict Boehlich’s impact as a political publicist from the perspective of contemporary history and to explain how and why a liberal observer of political events became a committed, left-wing intellectual. Particular focus will be placed on the lack of attention paid to National Socialism in West Germany. The biography of an intellectual is not only about the figure of Walter Boehlich but also the description of an intellectual network that contributed significantly to the liberalisation of public opinion in West Germany. The study is thus also a contribution to the history of publishing and of political culture in West Germany.

Christoph Kapp

Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History
Am Neuen Markt 1
14467 Potsdam

Email: kapp [at] zzf-potsdam.de

Forschung